On my weekly Medication Monday posts, I often use WebMD as a resource. And as background research, WebMD and other reliable resources found through Google are great. They give you basic information that will allow you to be more knowledgable when you talk with medical professionals. Because I know, talking to doctor’s can be confusing. Heck, it can be downright overwhelming. So wanting to walk in with some basic knowledge is definitely understandable because it helps calm the nerves and demystify the conversation. Yet under no circumstances should you go out and use your Google knowledge to treat yourself. That isn’t what self-care means.
I write this on the heels of news that an Arizona man died after ingesting Chloroquine. He was trusting the mistaken statements of President Trump and trying to treat himself.
And I write this because the phenomenon isn’t isolated to just treatment of Coronavirus. Individuals battling mental health conditions are also likely to resort to trying self-treatment or unsupported medicines. In fact, I’ve tried this myself.
In my case, the self-treatments were fortunately limited to herbs that weren’t harmful but ultimately weren’t helpful either. Some of them are helpful for some people. For example, I tried both valerian root and melatonin when my depression and anxiety caused sleepless nights, which is common enough. When that didn’t work, however, I simply upped the dose before abandoning them altogether. What I should have done, of course, is then consulted with my doctor.
Unfortunately, some people don’t stop at over-the-counter herbs and supplements, which if taken in accordance with the instructions will likely be harmless. Some people try medications and treatments that aren’t approved for their condition. This can lead to dangerous and sometimes deadly side effects.
Worse still, doctoring yourself with the help of Google can lead you down entirely wrong trails. It doesn’t take a hypochondriac to misinterpret a few symptoms and have Google tell them that they are likely dying. And if that doesn’t spike someone’s anxiety, what will. Before seeing a therapist I misdiagnosed myself as bipolar, and I am fortunate I didn’t act on that since treating bipolar depression can be very different than treating major depressive disorder.
Google can be a great tool. An amazing one in fact. Never before has the whole of human knowledge been in our pocket, just a click away. However, like any tool, how effective it is depends on the efficacy of one’s use. Background knowledge is good. Thinking your four minutes of Googling can replace four years of medical school is bad, dangerous, and should be discouraged. Self-care means taking walks, taking time for yourself, and being mindful of your emotions. It does not mean actually treating yourself medically.
Thank you for coming to my TEDtalk. And until next time, be well.